Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin killed in Syria

The Guardian 

 Marie Colvin dies along with photographer Remi Ochlik after shell hits house in Homs, while three activists are also killed.P

The veteran Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and the French photographer Remi Ochlik have been killed in the Syrian city of Homs after an artillery shell hit the house in which they were staying.

Two other foreign reporters, as well as seven activists from the ravaged Bab al-Amr neighbourhood, were also wounded on Wednesday. 

One of the injured is freelance photographer Paul Conroy, who was travelling with Colvin.]

In the deadliest period for the media since the uprising in Syria began, at least three activists have also been killed. 

The three Syrians had all played prominent roles in chronicling the regime's assault on Homs over the past four months. 

One of those killed was the video blogger Rami al-Sayed, also known as Syria Pioneer, who had uploaded to the internet at least 200 videos of killing and destruction in his neighbourhood.

Colvin, a decorated foreign correspondent with more than 30 years of experience in conflict zones, and Ochlik, who last month won a World Press Photo award, died instantly when the shell struck the safe house that had been provided for them by local activists just after 9am. 

Colvin's body, along with Ochlik's, was recovered from the rubble just after 1pm.

Colvin's editor, John Witherow, released a statement that said: "Marie was an extraordinary figure in the life of the Sunday Times, driven by a passion to cover wars in the belief that what she did mattered. 

She believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice. 

Above all, as we saw in her powerful report last weekend, her thoughts were with the victims of violence.

"Throughout her long career she took risks to fulfil this goal, including being badly injured in Sri Lanka. Nothing seemed to deter her. 

But she was much more than a war reporter. She was a woman with a tremendous joie de vivre, full of humour and mischief and surrounded by a large circle of friends, all of whom feared the consequences of her bravery."

Colvin and Ochlik had been in the Bab al-Amr area of Homs for the past week reporting on the bloody siege of opposition-held parts of Syria's third city, which has claimed hundreds of lives and led to a humanitarian crisis.

The house in which the reporters were based was located next to a hospital and had been the main refuge for all reporters who had made it to Bab al-Amr in the face of a relentless barrage by regime forces over the past few weeks.

An activist for the campaigning group Avaaz who witnessed Wednesday's attack said: "I left the house after it got struck and headed to a house across the street. 

The shelling continues and the bodies of the journalists are still on the ground. 

We can't get them out because of the intensity of the shelling even though we're only a few metres away from them."

Another witness told the Guardian that rockets were continuing to rain down on the area as the wounded tried to escape the bombed house. 

A graphic video posted on the internet showed the two-storey house in ruins – a scale of damage that could only be caused by a heavy artillery round. Two bodies were visible in the rubble.

Three of the wounded are understood to be in a serious condition and in urgent need of treatment.

They face a long and perilous drive to the Lebanese border where Red Cross officials are preparing to meet them.

The French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, confirmed the death of Ochlik, who was 28.

The foreign secretary, William Hague, said he was "saddened by the terrible news of the death of Ms Colvin".

The foreign editor of the Times, Richard Beeston, released a short statement on Twitter that read: "Terrible news about Marie Colvin. First worked with her Beirut 85. Most courageous, glamorous foreign corr I have ever met. Tragic loss."

Colvin used a web forum to make what is believed to be her last post on Tuesday.
"I think the reports of my survival may be exaggerated," she wrote. "In Baba Amr. Sickening, cannot understand how the world can stand by and I should be hardened by now. Watched a baby die today. Shrapnel, doctors could do nothing. His little tummy just heaved and heaved until he stopped. Feeling helpless. As well as cold! Will keep trying to get out the information."

On Tuesday night, Sayed also lodged a final missive. "Baba Amr is being exterminated. 
 Do not tell me our hearts are with you because I know that. We need campaigns everywhere across the world and inside the country. People should protest in front of embassies and everywhere. Because in hours, there will be no more Baba Amr. And I expect this message to be my last."

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